MCCOOK – The Western Nebraska Community College baseball team knew they needed to win twice to guarantee a playoff berth in this weekend's Region IX tournament in Trinidad, Colorado.
The Cougars didn't get the sweep, splitting with McCook Community College on Tuesday. WNCC won the first game after scoring nine times in the seventh inning for the 13-3 win. Game two was a heartbreaking finish. After WNCC jumped to a 5-0 lead, McCook scored six straight runs to claim the split on the day.
But, because of a bylaw rule, WNCC's playoff hopes remain alive. The bylaw states that if the four and five seeds are tied and have split with each during the regular season, then there will be a one-game playoff. Both WNCC and Miles split 3-3 during the season, forcing the one-game playoff.
WNCC, McCook and Miles Community College all finished with a 16-20 Empire Conference records. The split Tuesday gave McCook the number three seed in the Region IX tournament while WNCC and Miles will now have a one game playoff at 4 p.m. Wednesday in Trinidad for the fourth seed.
WNCC was so close to capturing that third seed, too.
The Cougars started the day with an impressive offensive performance in game one. After leading just 4-3 after five innings, WNCC put plenty of distance between them and the Indians to avoid any last-at-bat offensive charge by the Indians.
The seventh inning saw the Cougars plate nine runs on seven hits. Austin Michaud started the scoring with a big run scoring double. Brandon Bachar then walked to plate another run followed by a 2-run single by Landon Urban. Ryan Grasser then came through with a run-scoring double.
WNCC pounded out 14 hits in the game with just three extra base hits. Oscar Perez and Bachar led the way with three hits each. Perez went 3-for-4 with two runs scored while Bachar went 3-for-3 with three runs scored, a RBI, and a stolen base.
Michaud, Urban and Grasser each had two hits. Michaud had two doubles with two runs scored and two RBIs, while Grasser had one double, two RBIs, and a run scored. Urban finished with three RBIs and a run scored.
The star of the game, though, was Alex Achtermann, who went the distance on the mound, tossing 86 pitches in seven innings of work. Achtermann struck out six and allowed just three runs on nine hits. Achtermann walked just one in the win.
The second game was the Cougars for the taking as WNCC held a 5-0 lead after 2 ½ innings. WNCC exploded out of the gates with four, first-inning runs on a double by Aaron Morrison and two run-scoring singles by Jack Pauley and Jonathan Bermudez.
WNCC added a single run in the third on a Jack Pauley solo home run for a 5-0 lead. WNCC couldn't hold the lead as McCook scored four in the third and single runs in the fourth and fifth to take a 6-5 lead.
WNCC had plenty of opportunities to plate runs in the later innings. The Cougars left the bases loaded in the fourth with just one out and then had two runners on in the seventh but couldn't get the big hit to score the runs.
WNCC outhit McCook in the game 8-6. Pauley, Bermudez, and Stuart Eurich each had two hits for the Cougars. Pauley had a home run with two RBIs and two runs scored, while Bermudez had two runs scored.
WNCC 010 120 9 – 13 14 1
McCook 001 200 0 – 3 9 2
WP – Alex Achtermann; 2B – Austin Michaud 2, Ryan Grasser.
WNCC (22-34) 401 000 0 – 5 8 1
McCook 004 110 x – 6 6 0
LP - -Brian Kelley; 2B – Aaron Morrison; HR – Jack Pauley.